Friday, February 9, 2018

The Joy of Preschool

We are blessed to be involved in a wonderful homeschool co-op with a fantastic group of people, and our new co-op semester started today. I have taught a variety of classes in homeschool co-ops in the past (i.e., drama, music appreciation, literature unit studies, geography), but this semester I am teaching two of my favorites: A preschool class, and creative writing for middle schoolers. I might write a post about the creative writing class on another day, but today I would like to talk about preschool. At the ripe old ages of seventeen, fourteen, and twelve, my own children have been beyond their preschool years for quite awhile now (sniff, sniff). If I am honest, I will tell you that I miss that age greatly and that it also happened to be my most favorite stage of homeschooling. When my kids were in their preschool years, I made Montessori-style materials to use with them at home, sang songs with them throughout each day, read picture books galore, explored sensory materials again and again, and completed hands-on art projects with them multiple times per week. It was so much fun and I loved, loved, loved it! I truly did! And I really do miss it. Preschool is just my favorite age to teach. That's why I am SO excited to teach pre-K this semester. Please indulge me for a moment by allowing me to share a little bit about my time with the tots today.

I had decided that our theme for this week and next week would be snow, so I began by reading the picture book, Snow, by P.D. Eastman, for story time.



Following story time, we listened to (and sang) the song, Seven Feet of Snow, and we did some fun hand motions along with the music. Here is a link to the song: https://youtu.be/kdVBayKkg1o

After that, we thought of words to describe snow (i.e., wet, cold, white) and talked about fun activities that we like to do in the snow (sledding, building snowman, etc.) We then looked at pictures of some artic animals in The Great Animal Search book and talked about those animals.


After this, we moved to table time activities. I passed out some "snow dough" that I had made at home, and the kids made snow balls and snow men with it. They also simply enjoyed the sensory aspect of squishing and squeezing it. Snow dough is similar to play dough, but the texture is somewhat different. I made it from mixing plain lotion and cornstarch together (the recipe said to use equal parts of each, but I ended up adding more cornstarch), and I added a small amount of glitter to the mixture as well.


Following the snow dough clean up, we still had some class time left, so I moved away from the snow theme, and pulled out a card game to help them learn the concept of opposites. The game is simply a large set of picture cards. I spread the cards out, and after choosing a card at random, each child scanned the other pictures to try to find the corresponding opposite. We also spent a lot of time talking about the pictures and opposite pairs. The opposites card game looks like this:


At the end of our game, parents were arriving to pick up their preschoolers for lunch, so the class ended. However, the other activity that I had planned for today, if time had permitted, was to sing this fun song about opposites with the kids:  https://youtu.be/QrQVPUKn2vo

Hence, I fully enjoyed my first day as a preschool teacher! The lesson was simple, but fun. I found myself reverting to my former speech pathologist self (even though that was a very long time ago) in that I did a whole lot of talking, as well as a lot of open-ended questions and listening, to encourage the kids to think and to develop their use of language. The little ones were so sweet, and it wasn't hard to remember why I miss that stage in my own children's lives so very much. Nevertheless, each age and stage has it's own blessings and beauty, and I have enjoyed homeschooling my children at every one of those ages and stages. I am so thankful for the opportunity to be home with my children, and it isn't something that I take for granted. Life is often stressful, and homeschooling has its difficulties, but there is so much joy to be found in it every single day. May we continue to experience the joy and blessings of this life that God has given us. Thank you for letting me share my day with you!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Renewed Hope In the New Year


Psalm 3: 3-6

"But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side."

I cannot lie . . . the past five years have been rough. Without going into a lot of detail, some extreme dysfunction within my family of origin had left me feeling depressed, anxious, and confused. It was a relationship in which firm boundaries were necessary to keep my children and me safe, but the person involved did not want to accept the boundaries. Because of that, I found myself estranged. Deep down, I knew that I could not fix the situation, but I still felt guilty and ashamed of myself for not being able to. I am a people pleaser at heart, and when anyone is unhappy with me, I tend to feel guilty about it, whether or not I am actually the one at fault.

My emotions have been a rollercoaster for these past five years. I have struggled with insecurity and low self-esteem. I found that rejection by someone who should have loved me unconditionally caused me to assume that I would sooner or later be rejected by everyone else, too. I walked through life wanting to avoid people and hang my head in shame, even though I hadn't done anything to be ashamed of. In other words, this trial completely rocked my world.

On the one hand, I knew that my family was safer as a result of the estrangement, even though I had never asked to be put in such a position. However, I still ruminated over it time and time again. I fell into despair. I was inconsolable at times. I tried to take control of the situation in my mind--to think about all the ways I should have been able to fix it by keeping the peace and erasing all conflict. The reality was that I never could have controlled the actions of another person, but I still kept thinking about it nonetheless, and I couldn't let go of the misplaced guilt. Essentially, I failed to trust God with it. I tried to take control of something that He alone has control of. I failed to acknowledge that He had allowed this situation, and that He allowed it for my good. He knew all along that it was going to happen. He allowed it to happen in a way that provided for my family's safety, and He used it for my own sanctification. 

As I acknowledge God's sovereignty, I am finally able to begin letting go. I still have a ways to go with that, but it is a start. I can begin trusting in His goodness and thanking Him for his kindness. The Lord is lifting my head. He is sustaining me. He is helping me not to fear anymore. He is helping me to see that I am loved and accepted, not because of anything that I have ever done or failed to do, but because God is love. And by His grace, through Christ's finished work on the cross, I am His child. As a child trusts a loving father, I can trust my Heavenly Father because He loves me and He is good.

So, I am beginning 2018 with renewed hope. God is sovereign over all things. His love and His good plans will never fail. Jeremiah 29: 11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." I can take that to heart this year, one day at a time. I can remind myself of it often, regardless of painful life circumstances. I know there will be days when I fail to trust Him, and the old anxiety will creep back in, but I also know that He will lift my head and refocus my eyes on Him once again. He has been with me through this trial, and He will ultimately use it for my good and for His glory. He is faithful, and I am so thankful for that. 

Psalm 121: 1-2

"I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth."







Monday, November 27, 2017

"Mary, Did You Know?" Official Music Video - Cover





Sadly, I have long neglected my blog, but I would love to share this newly released Christmas video with you. It was created and produced by a young lady who is a homeschool graduate, and all of the teens featured in the video, with the exception of one, are current homeschoolers or homeschool graduates. My oldest daughter is one of the vocalists in this, and we were super excited to see the finished product! Mary, Did You Know? happens to be one of my favorite Christmas songs, and this is a beautiful arrangement. Thank you for watching, and I hope you enjoy it! One of my goals for 2018 is to be able to manage my time in a way that allows me to write regularly on this blog, so I hope to be back soon. Merry Christmas, Friends!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Trim Healthy Mama Recipe Roundup

Who else eats according to the Trim Healthy Mama plan? I began following THM in January, after receving the book and cookbook for Christmas. Although I haven't lost any weight, I can honestly say that I am not too concerned because I wasn't overweight to begin with. My journey with THM began as an attempt to reverse pre-diabetes, which was indicated by a 5.9 on my A1C blood test. I have not had this blood test repeated yet, but I can affirm that I am feeling tons better. I have more energy and patience, and I am noticably less irritable and anxious. In the THM world, this would be called a non-scale victory! I am thankful for these benefits, which give me the motivation to keep moving toward a healthier lifestyle. 

At first, I mostly used recipes from the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook, but I have begun to attempt recipes that I find on various websites, too. I thought that, from time to time, I would post links to THM-friendly recipes that I have tried and enjoyed. You will find some of these below.

Main Dishes

Cilantro Lime Chicken Breast (I served this with brown rice, making it an E meal) 
http://anordinaryhousewife.com/cilantro-lime-chicken-breast/

Bacon Ranch Chicken Casserole (S)
http://joyfilledeats.com/bacon-ranch-chicken-casserole-thm-s/

Easy Stuffed Cabbage (E)
http://simplyhealthyhome.com/the-easy-way-to-make-stuffed-cabbage

Soups

Italian Meatball Soup (S)
http://joyfilledeats.com/italian-meatball-soup-thm-s/

Low Carb Broccoli Cheese Soup (S)
http://the-lowcarb-diet.com/low-carb-broccoli-cheese-soup/

Desserts

Peanut Butter Whip (S)
http://rohndasue.com/2014/05/30/peanut-butter-whip-low-carb-sugar-free/

Fudgy No-Bake Cookies (S)
http://sherigraham.com/trim-healthy-mama-fudgy-no-bake-cookies-s

Snickers Shake (S)
http://kellyscozykitchen.blogspot.com/2014/02/chocolate-peanut-butter-milkshake.html

Stay tuned, as I plan to continue posting links to some favoriteTHM-friendly recipes from time to time. Thanks for reading and happy eating!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

When Life Gives You Twaddle



Twaddle. It is a buzz word that homeschoolers tend to be familiar with. It is part of my everyday vocabulary, as it is for most homeschoolers who admire Charlotte Mason and follow her method of education. It is a fun word to say, but it is something that we strive to avoid. So, what exactly is twaddle? Dictionary.com defines it as trivial, feeble, silly, or tedious talk or writing. Charlotte Mason used the word twaddle when referring to dumbed down books that are mindless, senseless, or silly—books that don’t engage the mind and heart of the reader. In Charlotte’s view, education embodied a science of relations, and books that did not engage a child’s mind to help form meaningful connections were simply twaddle. Tedious, boring textbooks immediately come to mind. So do silly and pointless books, such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles junior novel that I recently allowed my son to read. Although I do allow my children to read some twaddle, I mostly want them to read books that are the complete opposite—living books—books that are alive with passion and ideas. Books that will engage their minds and elevate their thoughts. I want my children’s daily lives to include a steady diet of living books to feast upon, and only a small amount of twaddle for dessert.

Several years ago, at a local homeschool meeting, the speaker expanded the word twaddle to include the excessive or meaningless activities that we often include in our lives. Such activities are unnecessary and stressful, but we frequently feel compelled to keep doing them anyway. I didn’t give her extended definition much thought at the time, but lately it has been coming to mind more often. My life is so full and busy, just like the lives of most other moms, and I have to wonder how much of my time is wasted on twaddle. For the purposes of this post, I will consider twaddle to be anything that is not worth my time at the moment and brings more stress than benefit to my family. How much that my family does is truly worth our time? What could—or should—we eliminate? This is something that I used to struggle with a lot. Well, actually, who am I kidding? I still struggle with it a lot. It is a matter of prioritization, and prioritizing is something that is well worth learning how to do.

Extracurricular activities can become twaddle. As a homeschool mom, I have always felt pressured to put my kids in a lot of extracurricular activities. I suppose my aim is to prove to the naysayers that my kids are not isolated, that they are receiving adequate social time, and that they do receive instruction from adults other than their parents. So, off we have gone, again and again over the years, to little league practices, martial arts classes, music lessons, dance classes, theater rehearsals, scout meetings, Awana clubs, homeschool co-ops, choir practices, etc. How much of this has really been valuable, and how much of it could be described as twaddle? Charlotte Mason believed that children needed downtime for exploration, play, and “masterly inactivity”. If my kids are too overscheduled, they will not have this downtime to enjoy childhood in the way that it was meant to be enjoyed. Not all extracurricular activity is twaddle, of course, and some of it is very beneficial for our children. We can ask God for wisdom to help us decide how much is too much for our family during any given season of life, and we can rest assured that it is okay to take a break when the family schedule becomes too overwhelmed. Recently, I ran into an old friend, and we conversed a bit about the challenges of parenthood. This friend reminded me that the best predictor of a well-adjusted child is for that child to live in a safe, supportive environment, and that the extras are really not important contributors to a child’s well-being. I was so thankful for that reminder! Our children need to feel loved, connected, supported, and safe. Those extras that we feel so compelled to provide for them, such as the music lessons, dance classes, sports teams, etc., are really just the icing on the cake for them. Fluff. Twaddle. There is nothing wrong with extracurricular activities; however, we can feel confident that our children would be all right without them. We don’t have to feel guilty when we must become selective about the extras in order to prevent stress within the family. Sometimes, it turns out that our children are just as happy—maybe even happier—after some of those extracurricular activities are removed. Children enjoy having downtime to play and explore! Think about that the next time you find yourself needing to eliminate some activities in order to save your family’s collective sanity. Your children really will be okay.

I can inadvertently spend my time on twaddle, even when it seems like my time is being well-spent. Until about five years ago, I automatically said yes almost every time I was asked to volunteer for anything at church or anywhere else. I did this because I was a chronic, habitual people pleaser, and I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. Ever. I eventually found myself involved in too much, which left me feeling tired, crabby, and overwhelmed. For me, much of my involvement had become twaddle, even though my activities may not have seemed senseless, silly, or meaningless to anyone else. I was volunteering for good causes, but I found out that something good isn’t always what is best for me. Over the past several years, some specific life circumstances have helped me to learn, albeit slowly, that people pleasing really isn’t worth it. Now, instead of answering with an automatic yes to everything I am asked to do, I always think about it first. How do I know when to say yes and when to say no? If it is something that I think I might want to do, I generally ask myself three questions to help figure it out. First, I ask myself why I want to do it. I want to make sure that it isn’t based on any remnant of my people pleasing past, which tends to rear its ugly head rather unexpectedly at times. If I am able to rule that out, I then ask myself if I actually have the time to commit to it. I think through our family’s current schedule to determine if it would interfere with our other time commitments. I also make sure that I am continuing to protect some downtime for my family, which I feel is essential to our well-being. Finally, I ask myself if the activity would be a good fit based on my family’s current goals and priorities, or if it would actually distract me from our most essential goals. This is important to consider because any activity that is distracting you from your most imperative priorities is going to lead to unnecessary stress. Please note that I am not saying that you shouldn’t volunteer for church ministries or other good causes. As believers, it is right for us to use our time to serve others. What I am saying is that it is reasonable to make sure that any decision to volunteer comes from a pure motive—not from guilt or obligation—and it also makes sense to refrain from volunteering when your ministry to your family would suffer as a result. Our time is our most important investment, and we must continually evaluate whether or not we are using it wisely. I always discuss any potential time commitment—whether for me or for my children—with my husband, just as I discuss all family issues with him. He consistently gives me wise counsel and helps me to keep my focus where it needs to be.

Twaddle can invade our downtime at home. Am I the only mother whose family members usually gravitate toward electronic devices (major twaddle) during their free time? I doubt it, so other mothers know as well as I do the importance of putting limits on electronics, for our kids and also for ourselves. When I am adequately limiting electronics, the activities that my kids will pursue on their own are so much better for them. My teenage daughter exercises, practices her dancing, or reads a book. My younger daughter plays the piano, writes stories, or reads. My son plays with Legos, shoots hoops in the driveway, or practices his martial arts. We play board games together. We have conversations together. We connect as a family. Of course, I’m still going to allow the video games sometimes. I’m going to let my teenage daughter check facebook and text her friends. We are going to watch silly movies together. But, we put limits on our electronics to make room for more positive pastimes.


Regardless of the type of twaddle that has invaded our schedule, we can easily learn to recognize the symptoms of it: We will feel weary, overwhelmed, and grouchy because it is crowding out time that is needed for something else. In other words, it stresses us out! We can deal with this in the same way that we would deal with the literary twaddle that we are so familiar with. What would you do if you came across a series of silly, nonsensical books (think Barbie or something else along those lines) taking up precious space on your child’s bookshelf? Unless it was a favorite of your child or held sentimental value, you would obviously get rid of the books! The same principle applies to the twaddle that takes up our precious time. When we recognize it, we should try to get rid of it!

I realize that this use of the word twaddle is unconventional and is likely a bit of a stretch, but for me, it is helpful to reflect on. I can’t pretend to know what Charlotte Mason would think about it, but based on what I know about her, I believe that she would approve. I can imagine her encouraging us to remove the unnecessary excesses from our lives and to preserve the precious time that we have with our children. Time just to be together, without constantly having to hurry to the next activity. Time to pursue activities that we find to be genuinely worth our time. Time for spontaneous pursuits, rather than the pressure of too many scheduled classes and lessons. Yes, I definitely think that Charlotte Mason could appreciate that. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go take a look at my schedule. I’m going to work at removing some of the twaddle. I know that, in our super busy, activity-driven lives, it will be a constant battle, but I will continue to make the effort. Every day. Little by little. It will be worth it. Because our families are worth it.



Monday, February 22, 2016

Encouraging Language Development In Young Children (Language Development Part 3)


This post is Part 3 in a series about early language development. Click here to read Part 1, and here to read Part 2.

Language is a gift from God that enables us to communicate with others, and as a result, to develop relationships with the people who come into our lives. I think we would all agree that language is important, so what can we do at home to actively promote the development of our children's language during early childhood? Fortunately, the answer is a lot! And the really good news is that doing so isn’t rocket science. In all likelihood, you are already doing a lot of this with your child:

  • Intentionally talking to your child throughout your everyday life and activities.
  • Encouraging your child to communicate with you, listening attentively when she does communicate, and then repeating back and expanding upon her language.
  • Reading aloud is an absolute must.

See, you already do some of this, right? Let’s dive right in to some specific suggestions for children between the ages of birth and four years. Keep in mind at every age and stage that your child understands more language than she is able to produce. So, even long before your child is talking, lots of language development is happening and there is plenty that you can do to encourage that progression. These activities will benefit any child, whether or not that child has demonstrated a language delay. Please note that these suggestions are not intended to replace speech and language therapy. If you child is receiving therapy, her clinician will suggest more specific activities to do at home that are designed to support current goals and objectives.

Birth–3 Months
  •  Do what mothers already do naturally: Bond with your baby. Hold her . . . in fact, hold her a lot.
  • Sing to her.
  • Bring your face close to hers and talk to her sweetly.
  • Smile at her, and imitate the sweet little noises she makes.
  • Click your tongue and watch as she notices it.
  • Exaggerate your facial expressions as you talk and sing to her.
  • Hold a rattle and gently shake it, watching your baby move her eyes as she hears the sound.
  • Listen to music and sing as you rock your baby.
  • Enjoy the preciousness of infancy. It is fleeting.




3-6 Months
  • Allow your baby to look at a variety of interesting objects, including colorful toys with lots of visual detail.
  • Hold your baby’s hand and help her to explore different textures, like a blanket, hard and soft toys, and your face. There are plenty of textured baby toys available on the market, or use items from around the house.
  • Laugh with her when she laughs.
  • Talk to her in an animated, expressive way. Use a variety of facial expressions when you talk to her. Keep your face close to hers (about 12 inches away), making eye contact with her; vary your pitch from high to low, and your loudness from a whisper to a normal speaking voice.  Babies quickly become good imitators of the expressions they see and the sounds that they hear.
  • Sing to her a lot. 
  • Read or recite nursery rhymes, and read simple board books to her.

 6-12 Months
  • Actively respond to your baby’s coos, gurgles, and babbles.
  • Read colorful, simple books to her every day. Read slowly and expressively. 
  • Show your child pictures of animals in books and name each one as she looks at it. Then, ask her to show you each animal as you name it.  Hold your child’s hand and help her to point to the animals, if needed. Imitate animal noises as you look at the books together.
  • Throughout each day, talk to your child about what you are doing and what she is doing, keeping your language concrete and simple. Make eye contact with her when talking face to face.
  • Play simple games with your baby, such as Peek-a-Boo, Pat-a-Cake, and So Big.
  • Play music and sing to your child.
  • Get on the floor and play with your child. Talk to her as she plays, describing her toys, actions, and explorations with an expressive voice.
  • Around 9 months of age, your child will begin to understand that she can communicate with a specific purpose in mind; this is called communicative intent (for example, she can make a request for something that she wants). From this time on, you can begin to adjust her environment to make intentional communication more likely. For example, give her a toy that you know she will need to help to operate (like a wind-up toy).  Place desired items just a little bit out of her reach. Give her a puzzle with a missing piece. Encourage her to communicate with gestures, sounds, or words (early words probably won’t be understandable, and that’s okay). Before my children could talk, I taught them to use the American Sign Language (ASL) sign for “help” when they wanted to request my help with something.




12-15 Months
  • Continue to talk to your child a lot, and try to encourage her to talk to you, too.
  • Read, read, read to her every day. When you read simple picture books together, use them to communicate with your child and in turn, to stimulate her to communicate with you. For example, ask her to point to the pictures in books as you name them (“show me the . . . “), then encourage her to try naming some of the pictures.
  • As you talk to your child throughout each day, name the items that your child sees (i.e., milk, table, a pet’s name, etc.) out loud, and encourage her to say the words back to you. Describe her play activities and toys out loud as she is playing.
  • Let her make noise with safe, household items, such as a pie tin and wooden spoon, and “make music” with these items while you sing simple songs or chant nursery rhymes.
  • Teach the concepts of in and out by showing her how to put items into containers, and dump them back out again. Next, ask her to do it, helping her (if needed) to put something in, then to dump it back out.

18 Months
  • Continue to read to your child every day.
  • Talk to her throughout your daily activities, describing what you and your child are doing, feeling, and hearing. Look at her and make eye contact with her when you are talking together.
  • Expand her vocabulary by encouraging her to repeat words after you say them; always try to teach new words based on the items you encounter and the experiences that you have together each day.
  • Repeat your child’s spoken words and phrases back to her, then expand on them. For example, when she says “milk”, say to her, “I want some milk, please,” and encourage her to repeat it. When she says “book”, say to her “I want a book,” and encourage her to imitate you.
  • Praise her communicative efforts often! Make communication fun and pleasant without any pressure.





Two Years Old
  • Continue to read to her every day, choosing simple books with colorful pictures, nursery rhymes, and books with repetitive language. Eric Carle and Audrey Wood are two examples of authors who use repetitive language.
  • Model good speech and language when you talk to your child.
  • When your child says something, expand on it by asking questions that will stimulate additional thought and language. Always think about expanding her language.
  • Regularly and intentionally carry on conversations with your child. Make eye contact with her. Try to listen attentively as your child talks to you, and show her that you are listening by answering, nodding, and smiling. Not only is this good for her language development, but it will also create a habit of good communication between you and your child that will benefit your relationship for life.
  • Help her learn to follow simple instructions and commands with one step, such as “pick up the ball” or “put your cup on the table”.
  • Listen to music and sing with your child, and try to encourage her to sing along with you. This is the perfect time to sing action songs, like The Wheels On the Bus.
  • Introduce new vocabulary words to her, repeating those words often to help her learn and remember them.




3-4 Years Old
  • Continue to talk with your child often, making eye contact, actively listening, and expanding her language by asking questions. Teach her the relationships between words, objects, and ideas by talking to her about the new experiences and objects that she encounters. Talk to here a little bit beyond her understanding. Converse with her as you would with any other person.
  • Keep reading to your child daily, beginning to choose longer stories, which will model good language for her and also help to increase her attention span.
  • Read nursery rhymes and books with repetitive language, which will stimulate phonological awareness (a pre-reading skill), as well as other areas of language. Try to get your child to join in with you as you read the rhymes and repetitions. Ask her to tell you stories as you look at picture books together.
  • Encourage your child to talk to you about what she sees when you go for a walk or a ride together.
  • Tell your child stories (both real and pretend) and then encourage her to tell you a story about herself or someone else. If you want to go a step further with this, write her story down as she tells you, then let her illustrate it. Most likely, she will want to "read" her story again and again.
  • Sing with your child and listen to music together. 
  • Practice giving her some two step commands to follow (i.e., “give me your brush and pick up the shoe”).
  • Help her begin to classify common, familiar objects into categories, such as things I wear. You can do this with pictures cut from magazines or with real objects from around the house.




There are some common themes that you probably noticed within nearly every age group in this list of suggestions. Talk to your child. Name objects. Read to your child. Sing to your child. Expand her language. Make eye contact. The repetition may have seemed redundant, but these concepts are so important at every stage of development that they are worth repeating. Let's talk a little bit more about a couple of them.

Reading aloud. My personal belief is that there is nothing more important that you can do for your child’s language development than to read aloud to her often. The good news is that most homeschool familes that I know already read a lot, so I’m almost certain that this is already a part of your daily routine. Keep it up and expand on it! Reading is so useful for stimulating speech and language that I would eventually like to write a blog post about specific ways to use books to help a variety of speech and language issues. Stay tuned!

Music and singing. At every age and stage, I suggested singing to your child. Why? One reason is simply because children love music, and it engages their attention in a way that little else can. Also, music benefits many areas of development, including language. It helps to improve memory, even for little babies as they learn to anticipate the variations in pitch and inflection that they will hear in a familiar song. Music helps to enhance auditory processing, and it is a tool that is often used to help a child learn just about anything. That’s why there are so many CDs marketed to help children learn everything from math facts to Bible verses. Additionally, the rhyming language in children’s songs helps to build phonological awareness, which is a critical language skill for reading. Some music styles, including classical music, promote active listening, which is important for language development. Singing helps to develop imitation, which is yet another significant language skill. On a personal note, when my middle child was a baby, music helped her to learn imitation in a memorable way. I used to sing to her about everything—whatever we happened to be doing at the moment—to the tune of Freres Jacques. Imagine my surprise when, at 8 months of age, she started humming Freres Jacques on her own, usually while I was rocking her. She then began babbling to the tune of Freres Jacques. As she grew a little older, she made up words to sing to that same tune. True story. It was super cute and it provided another avenue for her to learn imitation prior to her first spoken—or sung—words.


On a final note, I want to briefly discuss the use of sign language in young children. Children are often able to learn to use signs before they are able to talk, and it can be very gratifying for them to learn to sign some commonly used words early on. My children regularly used a handful of signs when they were babies, including more, eat, drink, in, out, and help. People often fear that introducing sign language in the early years will prevent a child from talking, although the reality is that studies have shown the opposite to be true. The ability to communicate by using sign language provides natural rewards that will often stimulate a desire to communicate even more. This can lead to earlier talking. The most efficient way for typically-developing, non-hearing impaired children to communicate is by talking, and they will always use this most efficient method as soon as they develop the ability to do so. So, please do not be afraid to use sign language with your baby. Spoken words will soon replace the signs, but it can be fun and rewarding for young children to learn some signs early on. Do use spoken words along with the signs when talking to your baby so she will learn to link the two together. Click here for some tips on getting started with baby sign language.

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/39734516@N00/5697684827">Mother's Day</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">(license)</a>


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Home, Sweet Home


I love poetry. 

As a homeschool mom who leans heavily toward the Charlotte Mason philosophy of edcucation, I have been intentional about including poetry in the lives of my children. Yesterday, my daughter and I read Home, Sweet Home by John Howard Payne. Although it is a familiar poem, I still enjoy it every time I read it. Home, Sweet Home feels especially encouraging to me as a homeschool mom because it confirms, in a beautiful way, how natural it is to celebrate the sweetness of home. It really is possible to experience fulfillment and contentment at home, even if the rest of the world would have us to believe otherwise. Please read and be encouraged: There is a reason that we feel drawn to do what we do, and the peace of mind that we experience from doing it is not worth anything else that the world might offer. There is no place like home.


Home, Sweet Home 

'Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home!
A charm from the skies seems to hallow us there,
Which, seek through the world, is ne'er met with elsewhere.
Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
There's no place like home! There's no place like home!

An exile from home, splendor dazzles in vain;
Oh, give me my lonely thatched cottage again!
The birds singing gayly, that came at my call-- 
Oh, give me them--and the peace of mind, dearer than all!
Home, home, sweet, sweet, home!
There's no place like home! There's no place like home!

~John Howard Payne


photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/93448689@N02/9687494422">Rose Cottage at Slad</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>